USA Gym­nas­tics ‘to be dis­banded’

The Phnom Penh Post - - SPORT - Rob Wool­lard

THE United States Olympic Com­mit­tee ( USOC) said on Mon­day that it had be­gun moves to dis­band the coun­try’s gov­ern­ing body for gym­nas­tics, ac­cus­ing the sport’s rulers of fail­ing to grap­ple with the af­ter­math of the Larry Nas­sar sex­ual abuse scan­dal.

USOC chief ex­ec­u­tive Sarah Hir­sh­land said in a state­ment that Olympic chiefs had started for­mal pro­ceed­ings to re­voke USA Gym­nas­tics’ sta­tus as the gov­ern­ing body for the sport in the US.

In an open let­ter ad­dressed to US gym­nasts, Hir­sh­land said USA Gym­nas­tics had failed to “change its cul­ture, to re­build its lead­er­ship, and to ef­fec­tively serve its mem­ber­ship”.

“You de­serve bet­ter,” Hir­sh­land told gym­nasts in the let­ter.

USA Gym­nas­tics has lurched from one self-in­flicted de­ba­cle to the next as it has strug­gled to re­build in the wake of the Nas­sar abuse case, the worst scan­dal in US Olympic his­tory.

Former US team doc­tor Nas­sar was jailed for life ear­lier this year af­ter abus­ing more than 250 ath­letes, in­clud­ing sev­eral stars of the US’ gold medal-win­ning teams at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

The be­lea­guered gov­ern­ing body, which had been ac­cused of cov­er­ing up Nas­sar’s crimes, has been in a state of per­pet­ual cri­sis ever since the scan­dal erupted.

Last month, newly in­stalled chief ex­ec­u­tive Mary Bono re­signed af­ter just four days fol­low­ing an out­cry by Olympic stars Si­mone Biles and Alexan­dra Rais­man. Bono had taken over from chief ex­ec­u­tive Kerry Perry, who had re­signed af­ter just nine months af­ter crit­i­cism of her per­for­mance by USOC.

Perry’s de­par­ture came af­ter the ap­point­ment and swift res­ig­na­tion of elite coach Mary Lee Tracy – who had made com­ments sup­port­ive of Nas­sar in 2016 when al­le­ga­tions of abuse against him had be­gun to emerge.

‘Un­fair to gym­nasts’

USOC had warned it was pre­pared to take the ul­ti­mate sanc­tion of re­vok­ing USA Gym­nas­tics’ sta­tus as a gov­ern­ing body un­less it put its house in or­der.

In Jan­uary, USA Gym­nas­tics board of di­rec­tors re­signed en masse at the be­hest of USOC.

In her let­ter to US gym­nasts on Mon­day, Hir­sh­land said Olympic chiefs had given up hop­ing that USA Gym­nas­tics was ca­pa­ble of re­form­ing it­self in the post-Nas­sar era.

Hir­sh­land said USOC had con­cluded that “the chal­lenges fac­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion are sim­ply more than it is ca­pa­ble of over­com­ing in its cur­rent form”.

“We have worked closely with the new USAG board over recent months to sup­port them, but de­spite dili­gent ef­fort, the NGB con­tin­ues to strug­gle,” Hir­sh­land said.

“And that’s not fair to gym­nasts around the coun­try. Even weeks ago, I hoped there was a dif­fer­ent way for­ward. But we now be­lieve that is no longer pos­si­ble.”

USOC’s com­plaint seek­ing to dis­solve USA Gym­nas­tics in its pre­sent form will now go be­fore a re­view panel which will con­vene a hear­ing on the case.

The re­view panel will is­sue a re­port and give a rec­om­men­da­tion which will then go be­fore the USOC board of di­rec­tors, who will de­ter­mine whether or not to for­mally strip USAG of its gov­ern­ing body sta­tus.

The move to de-cer­tify USA Gym­nas­tics was wel­comed by Rachael Den­hol­lan­der, the first gym­nast to come for­ward with al­le­ga­tions of abuse against Nas­sar.

“Af­ter over­see­ing the abuse of 100s of children by Larry, na­tional coaches and club coaches, it is high time for this or­gan­i­sa­tion to end and a new one, truly ded­i­cated to ath­lete safety, to be­gin,” Den­hol­lan­der wrote on Twit­ter. “A COM­PLETE reg­i­men change should start now. This is for ev­ery sur­vivor.”

Hir­sh­land, mean­while, stressed that US gym­nasts would con­tinue to com­pete in events as nor­mal, with the full sup­port and back­ing of the Olympic com­mit­tee.

“In the short term, we have to work to en­sure that USAG gym­nasts have the sup­port nec­es­sary to ex­cel on and off the field of play.

“We are build­ing plans to do just that. In the long term, it will be the crit­i­cally im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­ity of the recog­nised Gym­nas­tics NGB, whether the ex­ist­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion or a new one, to lead gym­nas­tics in the US and build on the sup­port­ive com­mu­nity of ath­letes and clubs that can carry the sport for­ward for decades to come.”


Si­mone Biles stands on the podium af­ter win­ning floor ex­er­cise gold at the 2018 FIG Artis­tic Gym­nas­tics Cham­pi­onships on Satur­day in Doha.

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